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From Possible Demolition to Expensive Restoration

A family feud between The Cavalier Hotel's owners led to a court-ordered sale in 2012. Subsequent inspections revealed significant concerns about the property's structural condition. There were high cost estimates for renovations.

Demolition was planned by every bidder but one group, The Cavalier Associates, a group led by Bruce Thompson, Bart Frye, George Metzger, John Lawson, Frank Reidy and Ed Ruffin.
Attorney R.J. Nutter, of the law firm Troutman Sanders, joined the project right after The Cavalier Associates were alerted of their winning bid, and recounted the difficult process which unfolded.
"The terms of the deal were very draconian," Nutter said.

When The Associates' bid was selected, they had to put down 10 percent of the purchase price up front. They also had to close the deal in two months, with no contingencies. This is difficult enough to accomplish when buying one house, much less an 85-year-old hotel and the complications surrounding it.
"Not a game for people who are weak-kneed," Nutter said.

After a lengthy path through the courts, the property was down-zoned for fewer units. This is when The Cavalier Associates went to work on closing the deal, deciding to monetize land around the hotel for residential properties.

As such, Bart Frye, a Norfolk developer with experience working with tight streets, began to lay out plans
Next was working on getting a financial package from the city.

The Virginia Beach City Council came through, granting a series of incentives to help preserve The Cavalier, including a performance-based economic development incentive grant, a green space easement for the lawn and entrance drive, another to rebuild Cavalier Drive as a public street; and much more from taxes collected on the increased value of the hotel properties.
The third phase was to secure historic tax credits.

For such an old and storied hotel, you might think this would be an easy task. Sure, it is a locally significant architecture location, as cited on the hotel's National Register of Historic Places application. And the high level of entertainment and hotel service it provided during its early years make it locally significant for recreation and social history.
Indeed, in 2014, The Cavalier made the National Register of Historic Places.


 

Renovation

In 2014, Gold Key | PHR began the extensive renovation and restoration of the property overseen by Norfolk-based architecture firm Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas.

The painstaking remodel brought new life to many of the original neoclassical features that made The Cavalier a visual oceanfront icon. Exterior details - such as the pedestals and finials, the iconic-style pilasters and the portico with classical columns - were meticulously and respectfully restored.

Much effort went into salvaging each of the original windows on the first floor and in public spaces which required several hundred man hours, with most of the work completed by hand.

Inside, much of the original paneling, plaster ornamentation, terrazzo flooring and painted ceilings also were thoughtfully reconditioned to historical accuracy.
The original hotel design had 195 guest rooms. They were reconfigured to create the more spacious 85 standard rooms and suites which make up the reimagined Cavalier.   

It is with great pleasure that we reopen the grand doors of The Cavalier and usher in a new era of magnificence in Virginia Beach. On behalf of The Cavalier Associates, we welcome you to help write the next century of stories for The Cavalier.